SOCIETY | Nov 21, 2018

Is it possible to improve the usability of Open and Linked Data?

The case of Idra, an Open Source platform that provides a single point of access to the Open Data of PAs

Interest in open data has never completely waned” said Davide Taibi, CNR researcher and scientific organizer of the event OpenData Sicilia, in an interview in this magazine taking stock of the subject of Open Data and Linked Data in Italy.

If this is true, it is equally true that the situation of open data still needs datum information and culture, investments and also technologies that help citizens and companies in the use of published information.

Fragmentation, one of the limits of Open Data

One of the major problems encountered in the field of Open and Linked Data is undoubtedly that of fragmentation, due to the fact that different platforms and standards are used for publication, which become an obstacle both for research and for the use of data and its reuse by external applications.

The case of Idra

To solve the problem of fragmentation, as part of the European FESTIVAL project, Engineering’s Research and Development laboratory in Palermo has created Idra, an Open Source platform that provides a single point of access to the Open Data of public administrations or private bodies originating from sources and portals based on heterogeneous technologies.

Acting as a single point of reference for the use of open and linked data, the platform – an integral component of the FIWARE project – meets one of the objectives of FOIA, namely to promote greater transparency in the relationship between institutions and civil society, and encourage an informed public debate on topics of collective interest.

5 advantages for the PA, citizens and companies

1. Data published on Idra are displayed through open APIs and standard formats, giving companies and citizens the opportunity to reuse them, also building new services or value-added applications

2. With a single point of access, it is possible to give greater visibility to data, through a federated system accessible by a greater number of users and for wider purposes (such as for example statistical or market analysis)

3. The Open Data published on Idra have advanced search functions, such as the possibility to perform it in various languages or display datasets that are not always found in the platforms on which they are published by PAs

4. Published data can be represented simply through Data Analytics and Data Visualization tools, through which citizens or specific professional categories (for example, journalists) can make statistics, market analysis, etc.

5. Through the Idra platform, developers have access to open APIs for developing new applications based on a large amount of data otherwise not easily accessible.

Why an Open Source platform?

The first version of Idra was developed within the European FESTIVAL research project, to then be extended by Engineering and included among the components of the European FIWARE ecosystem, a suite of Open Source software for supporting different application contexts, in particular IoT and Smart City.

It was decided to release the Idra source code with the AGPLv3 license”  says Martino Maggio, senior researcher in charge of the Idra project, “because much is being invested in the company on open source products, which can not only satisfy a need, but become opportunities for comparison and growth for developers who have the possibility of contributing to constant improvement of the project”.

What future for Idra?

At the moment,” continues Maggio,  “Idra is fully functional and could be used by any PA that may need it. We will continue to work as a research group, also following European trends in terms of open data and standard reference formats”.